Designer Spotlight: Nancy Troske

Brief Story

I’ve been attracted to ancient civilizations since I was little and my grandparents, who lived across the street from the Brooklyn Museum, took me there and to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I was fascinated by the artwork and jewelry, especially the jewelry. When I got to college I made Egyptology my minor (my major was Art) and wanted to become an archeologist. Then I discovered jewelry making, specifically, ancient jewelry making and I was hooked. Making my first ring with a cloisonné enameled jewel was one of the most thrilling moments I’d ever experienced. Jewelry making and working with tools came so naturally to me that before I knew it I was also teaching it. It’s like breathing for me….I can’t imagine life without making jewelry.

How did you get into jewelry design?

I came from a long line of jewelry lovers and made jewelry out of whatever was available. When I was a young girl…”poppit beads” and copper enameling were my favorites. After college, while I was working in a deep sea diving/research company and feeling a bit aimless, I stumbled on a silver jewelry making class in Croton, NY. There I made my first soldered bangle and before long was selling silver jewelry and teaching jewelry making at that same little shop. Back then the best way to buy supplies was to go into New York to Myron Toback. One day I was there and saw a flyer for cloisonné enameling at the Jewellery Workshop and Gallery, Spring St. NY – owned and operated by Fredericka Kulicke and Joseph English. I signed up immediately and went there for 3 years. Fredericka or “Freddie” is the daughter of Robert Kulicke. Robert Kulicke founded the Jewelry Arts Institute and literally pioneered, through much R&D, modern day granulation, cloisonné and ancient chainmaking. His school survives him today and so does Freddie’s school in Parsippany, NJ (where I now teach).

After the Jewellery Workshop I discovered an amazing enamellist, Gay Giannini. She enameled with a completely different method. She taught me a way of enameling on copper with silver and 24k gold foils. I studied under her for one year, until I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area. I’ve been looking everywhere online to try and locate her again. She was such a talented artist, however, I last saw her in 1980 and my search has been unsuccessful.

After moving to the Bay Area I was hired to work as a bench jeweler in a large jewelry store. While there I studied under Alan Revere. His school was very new at the time and was called the Revere Academy of Goldsmithing (now it’s the Revere Academy of Jewelry Arts). I learned jewelry repair, diamond setting and pave setting and was lucky enough to have Alan as my instructor. His school has grown enormously since then.

In 1981 I moved back to NY and then to Princeton in 2009 where I continue to teach and work.

What makes your collection unique?

My collection is unique in that I interpret ancient jewelry into contemporary designs using my own alloy of 22k gold. I use as little solder as possible and hand fabricate each and every element of a piece. I make all my own sheet, wire, granules, tubing, clasps, stone settings from this mixture. Silver pieces are all .999 fine silver (some findings like ring shanks and earwires are sterling).

What are your inspirations?

I’m inspired by the jewelry of the ancient Egyptians, Etruscans, Greeks, Romans and Byzantines. Unlike so much jewelry manufactured today, many of those ancient pieces would still be fabulous to wear. I’ll take small elements of a hugely complex and intricate design and use those ideas as starting points; adding diamonds, other gemstones and sometimes enamel to my pieces to give them a “contemporary twist.” The ancient jewelers didn’t work with many gemstones and those they had were fairly crude and limited to turquoise, carnelian, lapis and emerald.

How are you making a difference in your life?

I like to think that I’m bringing continuity to Goldsmithing. That through my work as an instructor and jeweler, these ancient arts and techniques will be handed down to the next generation, as well as the pieces I make. So many crafts have been lost over time and I feel it is essential to pass along these very well honed skills. I love the connection I make between ancient history and present day jewelry.

What's something unusual about you that makes you “you”?

I collect ancient coins and artifacts. I have a large collection of ancient Roman and Greek coins. Most of my coins were purchased as “dirt clods” and through cleaning I’ve identified and labeled most of them. I have intaglios, ancient rings and bracelets in bronze as well. I’m also very musical and play the piano and guitar and worked my way through college as a folk singer; performing in college coffee houses and cafes. I also paint, knit, cook and sail (not all at once!). I’m very good with technology and the computer too!

What is the biggest struggle in running your jewelry business like a business? OR What is your biggest success in running your business like a business?

My biggest struggle has been to learn to say “no.” I’m finally able to turn down repairs and even jewelry jobs that don’t involve the techniques I use. It isn’t hard for me to run it like a business because I’m extremely focused and look forward to each morning so I can sit down at my work bench and work. I know it sounds strange but I’m so happy when it’s Monday and I can get back to the piece I’m making!

About Nancy

Goldsmith/Jeweler since 1976. Trained in ancient and classical jewelry making techniques, such as enameling, granulation and chain making. I’ve taught jewelry making for over 20 years. I have a BFA in Fine Arts, as well as many years of
professional training in New York City and San Francisco. I was a commercial bench jeweler and diamond setter for several years before returning to the East Coast. In 2009 I relocated to Princeton, NJ where I continue to teach metalsmithing along with creating my unique pieces of contemporary jewelry based on ancient techniques. My work has been featured in art galleries around the country.

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